In what can be seen as a major economic impact to the Sandhills, the United States Golf Association (USGA) will move parts of its operations to Pinehurst beginning in 2023. The announcement was made at a Village of Pinehurst Public Hearing Tuesday evening and at a special meeting of the Moore County Commissioners earlier in the day.
“This is a very significant economic incentive package and some very interesting news,” said Pinehurst Mayor John Stickland as he opened the public hearing. “Not only for the Village of Pinehurst but for the state of North Carolina. We have been engaged in a multi-faceted development process with significant economic impact for the State of North Carolina, Moore County and the Village of Pinehurst. There will also likely be a significant impact on the world of golf. This opportunity has been titled Project Woodpecker.”
Craig Annis, Chief Brand Officer for the USGA, reveals plans to move part of its golf operations to Pinehurst in a meeting of the Village of Pinehurst Council Tuesday evening.
The State Legislature, Village of Pinehurst and Moore County have made financial and other commitments for various development funds from state agencies, Moore County and The Village of Pinehurst. Governor Roy Cooper is expected to release additional information about the financial incentive package on Wednesday.
Negotiations have been held in closed session. “We have had to keep this under wraps quiet for as long as possible to assure that this transaction could take place in confidentiality and move forward,” said Mayor Stickland.
According to the USGA, the idea of partnering with Pinehurst was first discussed after the 2014 U.S. Open held in Pinehurst.
Executive Director of Partners in Progress, Pat Corso, told the Village Council that an independent economic impact study shows that the 2014 U.S. Open drove more than $500 million in spending to North Carolina. “As you know, a permanent presence has the potential to drive far more than that as USGA shows its commitment to be a part of this community for a long time,” said Corso.“In expressing their desire for a permanent second headquarters in Pinehurst, they also are prepared to continue to bring major championship events to Moore County and North Carolina, reaffirming this region as the true Home of American Golf.”
As part of its commitment, the USGA will conduct five Men’s U.S. Opens in Pinehurst every five to seven years beginning in 2024 and one U.S. Women’s Open every 10 years. The USGA also committed to investing $25 million in facilities with a total of 50 employees.
“There can not be a better-suited project for our area given all that the USGA intends to deliver,” said Corso. “The total economic impact in North Carolina is estimated over the terms of the agreement to be $25 million.”
Moving to Pinehurst will be the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History and the ball and equipment testing facility. A visitor center is also part of the plan. They all are presently headquartered in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, in what is known as the USGA Golf House.
Also relocating to Pinehurst will be the section dedicated to turfgrass agronomy and management. Partnering with the USGA in turfgrass research will be NC State, NC A&T State University, and Sandhills Community College. It is expected that cooperation will lead to future job opportunities and training.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Moore County, Village of Pinehurst, Pinehurst Resort and a number of other host clubs throughout the state of North Carolina,” said Craig Annis from the USGA. “We see this project as something that will help us accelerate that in a really significant way, given the sheer number of golf fans, as well as for golfers who visit Pinehurst each year. Where better to begin a new chapter of American Golf and the USGA than from right here in the beautiful state of North Carolina.”
Annis said the USGA intends to call the new facilities Golf House Pinehurst.
Feature photo: The USGA pin flag on the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 during the U.S. Amateur in 2019. The U.S. Open was held in Pinehurst in 1999, 2005 and again in 2014. It is scheduled to return in 2024.
~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.